Since T3 lucky enough to unveil the Grim Procession DLC deck info, I feel I have a certain obligation to weigh in on the deck itself. I’ve always been a fan of black/white decks and, truth be told, Exalted Darkness just didn’t cut it for me.
Sure it had fun utility cards and some efficient beats, but where was the suffering? The necromancy? The sadistic glee?
It looks like Wizards saved it all for Grim Procession, a deck that paints a dark portrait of the Orzhov organization. Morose angels? Check. Happy looking demons? Check. Unending spiritual servitude to the church of Ravnica? Very check.
Reduce, Reuse, Reanimate
If there’s one thing Grim Procession does that no other Duels of the Planeswalker option has yet to offer, it’s bringing the dead back to life. It should come as no surprise, since both black and white are the religiously-inclined colors concerned with the afterlife. But more than a passing theme, the deck’s commitment to dealing with death starts on turn one and ends around the time your opponent’s life hits zero.
Nasty little beats like Doomed Traveler and Bloodhunter Bat offer not only their bodies, but also their effects, to the mid-game reanimation engine. In the case of Doomed Traveler, it’s a one-way ticket to Ghosttown, USA; the bat keeps life siphoning your way as long as you can bounce him around. Both creatures (and others, like the oh-so-pretty Keening Banshee) provide tempo and/or card advantage early on, then churn out pain as they bounce between life and unlife. What a lovely existence.
How does this happen? Why, through the miracle of
science religion! Church officials like the Ghost Council and Vish Kal give you efficient means of dispatching of your followers (for various activated benefits). Meanwhile, you’re also profiting from the death toll with things like Falkenrath Noble or evening the score with Onyx Mage. In other words, even when you’re losing creatures, you’re winning the card advantage battle.
Then, as the game drags on, you get your second wind. Two copies of Debtor’s Knell, not to mention Reanimate and Angel of Flight Alabaster, will arrive to dig up your dead and find new uses for them. You’ll get another round of ETB and LTB effects, plus the opportunity to reintroduce your opponents to their old pals. Without an efficient and immediate answer (enchantment removal, exile effects, etc.), your enemies will be fighting an uphill battle against creatures they cannot permanently dispatch.
Convergent evolution: death from above
Of course, white weenies and black utility mobs aren’t the primary target of your religious rituals, as Grim Procession is in possession of several extremely efficient flying beats. Three copies of Bloodgift Demon all but ensure consistent card advantage, as does the previously mentioned Angel of Flight Alabaster. A few other angels and demons are part of the deck, but you’ll probably get more frequent flyer miles out of Divinity of Pride. With such a forgiving casting cost and such a momentum-swinging ability list, your foes will be forced to remove it instantly or suffer a quick end.
The density of powerful flyers in Grim Procession is certainly not to be underestimated. Several decks in Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 have huge defensive holes in their air game, and getting a single angel/demon to stick in the sky will put your opponent on a very short clock. The fact that so many of these flying fatties can be regurgitated from your graveyard is just icing on the cake. Once the midgame hits, you’ll be dictating the flow of battle more often than not.
Pacing a downbeat dirge
That said, surviving to the midgame will be your biggest challenge with Grim Procession. The deck has a few tools to slow down enemy hordes, like Unmake and Pillory of the Sleepless, but these are mana-intensive spells you won’t always be able to rely on. Your best bet, in most situations, will be to trade creatures early on (especially tempo tools like Doomed Traveler) in the hopes of resurrecting your buddies once you have the time and mana to do so.
Don’t be surprised, however, if goblins, burn, or hexproof nuisances manage to sneak in lethal damage before you can afford a Necromancer’s Covenant. Or, worse yet, you canafford to cast your bombs, but they all get countered/destroyed/stolen. Without establishing some initial card advantage, it is highly likely that Grim Procession will fall far enough behind that all its topdecked threats will be instantly shot down. You’ll have to play smart and lean if you wish to vanquish established, top tier decks.
Grim Procession deck list
|1 cost||4||Doomed Traveler||1/1||w|
|2 cost||2||Onyx Mage||2/1||1b|
|3 cost||1||Stillmoon Cavalier||2/1||1(wb)(wb)|
|4 cost||1||Ghost Council of Orzhova||4/4||wwbb|
|5 cost||3||Bloodgift Demon||5/4||3bb|
|2||Divinity of Pride||4/4||(wb)(wb)(wb)(wb)(wb)|
|1||Shepherd of the Lost||3/3||4w|
|7 cost||2||Debtors’ Knell||4(wb)(wb)(wb)|
|5 cost||1||Angel of Flight Alabaster||4/4||4w|
|2 cost||3||Zealous Persecution||wb|
|3 cost||4||Pillory of the Sleepless||1wb|
|0 cost||3||Terramorphic Expanse||0|
|1 cost||2||Edge of the Divinity||(wb)|
Created with the MisterP deck editor.
Grim Procession alphabetical card-by-card analysis
This section is under construction. Check back soon for updates, but feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below!
Angel of Flight Alabaster: 4.0
With one of the needlessly longest and obscure names, this winged warrior is a fair play just for her fighting skills alone. She falls in line with other 5-drop air beats, allowing you to transition from defense to offense as the game wears on. Her ability to resurrect Spirits won’t always come in handy, but when it does, you’ll find yourself with a steady supply of chump blockers or utility creatures. Her power combos great with several sacrifice effects in Grim Procession, netting slow but steady card advantage.
Angel of Despair: 3.5
What’s that? Destroy any permanent I want? And I get a 5/5 angel? Not bad for seven mana. The only problem, of course, is getting to seven mana, which can be iffy even with a lucky initial draw. There’s no question our bald-headed friend can deliver victory if she makes it into play, but patience is certainly required. Once you’ve gotten her on the battlefield, feel free to toss her around inside Debtor’s Knell for a recurring Vindicate effect. You know, in case the whole 5/5 flyer thing wasn’t enough to secure a victory.
Blazing Archon: 3.5
Normally, I’d never consider giving anything, especially a creature, a positive rating if it cost nine mana. NINE MANA. And while I also question exactly how a lion mount gives its rider the flying ability, that’s not important. See that sentence, “Creatures can’t attack you”? That’s basically a death warrant for any Duels of the Planeswalkers deck that can’t kill Blazing Archon. Several have no to stop this creature, and even if they do eventually kill it, it will buy you plenty of time. Well, that’s if you’re willing to wait for nine goddamn mana.
Bloodgift Demon: 4.5
See this jerk? This is the guy you want to play on turn 5. With a hulking body that’s capable of bypassing enemy defense, he’s already a strong pick. If not killed or blocked, he can end the game in four turns solo. On top of that, he offers an extra card a turn… at the price of one life. This minor drawback is basically negligible when you consider Bloodgift Demon sends 500% that damage to your opponent’s face/flying defenders each turn. Plus, Grim Procession already has ways to recoup the life loss. Include at least two of these demons in your deck.
Bloodhunter Bat: 3.5
By no means a game-changer, this overcosted flyer will get stomped by most other deck’s turn 4 plays. Where the bat excels, though, is turning around early game momentum by undoing your opponent’s initial attacks. You’ll get some of your life back while stealing theirs, not to mention a 2/2 body that’s at least worth a trade. Plus, with only one black mana in its cost, you’ll rarely find yourself color-starved to cast it. Bloodhunter Bat also plays nice with lategame reanimation shenanigans, but it’s up to you to decide if it fits your deck’s curve.
For two mana, the ability to gain vital early-game intel and remove a major threat is a solid deal. Removing a single card from your foe’s arsenal may not seem like much, but it’s essentially a really cheap way to get rid of something you don’t want to see hit the stack. Yes, you’ll occasionally hit your opponent when he/she doesn’t have anything interesting in hand, but at least you’ll know your next few plays will go unchallenged. Castigate can be a dead draw late game, but can still kill time-sensitive bombs your opponent is holding back.
Since Grim Procession’s biggest weakness is early game pressure, a card that clears the board on turn 4 is nothing to sneeze at. Sure, it’ll wipe your own army, too, but the hidden knowledge of holding it will allow you to prey on your opponent’s eagerness to finish you off. Plus, even if you do lose a substantial force in the sweep, some (like Restless Apparition and Doomed Traveler) will come back immediately, while others can be revived later with various reanimation effects. In other words, even when you “lose” to Damnation, you win.
Deathbringer Liege: 4.5
Get this fatso (art, not actual combat ability) into play, and your opponent is going to be scrambling for removal. Upon arrival, it immediately buffs all your spirit tokens and Doomed Travelers, boosting your combat capabilities. If that weren’t enough, it can also shut down blockers, hold back attackers, or kill anything foolish enough to turn sideways. And, if you cast a black and white card, you can nuke almost anything on the battlefield.
Debtor’s Knell: 4.0
Many players have argued with me over my love for Debtor’s Knell. Yes, it’s expensive, but the reality is that this card wins games on its own. If your opponent cannot destroy this enchantment or remove troublesome creatures from the game, your army will become very annoying, very quickly. Running two Debtor’s Knells increases draw odds, and unlike most enchantments, doubling the effect is actually a huge improvement. Best of all, your deck’s got tons of ways to sac creatures, giving you an infinite engine for card advantage.
Divinity of Pride: 5.0
This is one of those cards where you read it over and over trying to find a weakness, and you can’t find one. Divinity of Pride is an insane steal, a 4/4 flying lifelink creature, for five mana. And not just five mana, five any-colored mana in your deck. And, as if that wasn’t enough, it has the possibility of becoming an 8/8, based on a condition the card itself can influence! Due to its ease of play, ability to swing momentum, and likelihood of causing game-winning damage, there is no reason you shouldn’t use every copy of Divinity of Pride.
Doomed Traveler: 5.0
You’re not going to find a better first turn play anywhere else. Doomed Traveler gives your opponent exactly zero good options, as killing it only makes it stronger. That means he’ll often go uncontested for early-game damage, and in a pinch he’s also the perfect blocker. Aside from combat, Doomed Traveler has wonderful synergy with Grim Procession, giving you a great target for human sacrifice and repeated reanimation efforts. Do yourself a favor and run every copy of this card.
Edge of Divinity: 4.0
Don’t want to choose between Holy Strength and Unholy Strength? Why not have both? For just one mana, you can easily boost the offense or defense of any monster in your collection. And, if they’re biracial, you’ll get a hefty +3/+3 buff. Of course the odds of that happening depend on the number of dual-colored creatures in your deck. Edge of Divinity isn’t bad without the double effect, but it was made for gray critters. This card gets -1.0 points for being an Aura, which of course comes with its own inherent card disadvantage risks.
Falkenrath Noble: 2.5
Unlike your other turn 4 options, this flyer doesn’t really impact your board position. Its effect (the same as Blood Artist) is okay, but won’t always turn the tide of battle. In essence, you’re paying four dollars to get a two dollar creature with a one dollar ability. I’d take the Bloodhunter Bat or Keening Banshee over this almost every time.
Ghost Council of Orzhova: 4.5
As far as beatsticks go, the Ghost Council is decent. Its color requirements are a tad strict, but simply landing a 4/4 for four mana that comes with a point of lifedrain isn’t bad. An ability that helps shield your church elders from harm is cool, too. But much more importantly, the Ghost Council of Orzhova is instrumental in getting the most out of your other creatures. You can trigger effects like Doomed Traveler on demand, as well as fuel Debtor’s Knell or Angel of Superfluous Descriptions. In essence, this is the key to many Grim Procession combos. Use it.
Ever since this card was first printed, I’ve been a big naysayer. Its effect is simply too slow and too costly for what you get: a middling body and an unburied ally. You still have to actually cast the card you disentomb, so Gravedigger won’t make a big impact until at least the turn after you play it. Even more awkward, he comes out on a turn when you’re unlikely to have anything valuable to fetch from your graveyard. Leave this necrophiliac loser out of your deck.
Guardian Seraph: 4.5
The most efficient 4-drop is probably this low-flying mangel (man angel). Just accounting for his evasion and body, four mana is a steal, but his passive protection of your life pool is a huge boon as well. It can halve or eliminate incoming early-game threats, and take a bit of the sting out of larger attacks. You’d also be surprised how many opponents forget about this effect, swinging in suicidally only to realize they miscalculated the damage they could deal. It’s a shame there aren’t more of these in Grim Procession.
Keening Banshee: 4.0
With slightly more color requirements than Bloodhunter Bat, this little witch does so much more. Her ETB ability won’t just erase the damage caused by early game weenies, it will actually erase them from the battlefield! She can also be played post combat to finish off a larger creature you weakened on your attack. Of course, you can’t really cast her when your opponents don’t have any creatures in play, but that’s generally a good board state for you, right? Evasion and some sick art are just icing on the demonic cake.
Midnight Haunting: 4.0
An overall useful instant, Midnight Haunting feels a little lonely in Grim Procession. There’s only one copy, so you can’t exactly plan around it, and although there is a minor spirit/flyers theme, these little guys don’t really synergize with any particular cards. Sure, you’ll pull off mini-combos here and there, but for the most part, you’ll be playing Midnight Haunting for combat tricks and its powerful utility as an instant-speed summon spell.
Mourning Thrull: 2.5
Not good, not bad, Mourning Thrull is a bland 1/1 pseudo-lifelink flyer for two mana. This guy isn’t going to win you any games, but if your opponent can’t block him, he can mitigate any damage that’s hitting you on the ground. Worst case scenario, he’s a decent chump that nets you one life point on his dying block. Sadly, its best case scenario is also basically the same.
Necromancer’s Covenant: 3.5
In my experience, any global enchantment over five mana has to do something amazing to be worth it. Necromancer’s Covenant is right at the cusp, offering a (potentially) huge army of lifelinked zombies. Of course, it’s not by any means a sure bet, as it’s entirely possible you can reach turn six with few monsters in either discard pile. Exacerbating that issue is Grim Procession’s large number of exile effects. But if you can score at least three tokens, it’s probably worth it. At the least, you’ll get three chump blockers and six “free” life.
Ob Nixilis, The Fallen: 4.5
As far as evil legendary creatures go, Ob Nixilis is all the way up there, ranked “nefarious.” His power and toughness are a bit underwhelming for five mana, but with a single Landfall, he quickly becomes an undercosted killing machine. Not only that, but Ob Nixilis is capable of draining your opponent’s life total without ever swinging in for an attack, great for ground stalls or when you suspect combat tricks. Note that his ability combos perfectly with Terramorphic Expanse, which will trigger twice for +6/+6 and a 6-point life loss.
Onyx Mage: 3.5
The ability to turn even your tiniest weenies into a monster-slaying deathtoucher is great, though you may not have the mana readily available early game. It’s more likely you’ll activate the Onyx Mage’s power once you’ve established your board position, using the threat of 2-mana removal to sneak in a few attackers uncontested. If you have a way to resurrect your creatures, this wizard’s value goes up, since you can chuck them at your opponent (or her army) and consistently get your suicide bombers back.
Orzhov Guildmage: 3.0
Easily one of the worst guildmages in Ravnica (with some of the best art), Orzhov Guildmage just isn’t a game-changer. Its activated abilities are expensive, and widening the lifegap between yourself and your opponent one point at a time isn’t phenomenal, especially when you consider other activated abilities in the deck have more impact for less mana. Still, a 2/2 for two isn’t bad, and your other second-turn drops are mediocre at best. Late game, this wizard is capable of getting through defenses, which has minor tactical value.
Pillory of the Sleepless: 4.0
By no means the best or most permanent solution to every creature threat, this aura nonetheless shuts most critters down with the added bonus of upkeep-powered pain. For 90% of decks, this card’s gonna cause major headaches, since it’s a huge tempo-turnaround. Instead of their creature hitting you every turn, it’s hitting them instead. Of course, this won’t do much against monsters with special abilities or decks with options to sacrifice their creatures (as in the mirror match), but in most situations, Pillory is a powerful play.
One mana resurrection is a damn good bargain, even if it costs you a little health to pull it off. Since you can exhume a target from anyone’s graveyard, Reanimate is a wonderful option both early and late game. Early game, you can trade creatures with your enemy, then steal back the pesky beast they just swung at you. Later on, you’ll have your pick of perhaps a dozen targets and can put whichever suits your mood best into play. Of course, the life cost will always be a limiting factor, but if you Reanimate a Divinity of Pride, I think you’ll be just fine.
Restless Apparition: 3.0
I’m torn. On the one hand, a pumpable 2/2 for three mana (split) with Persist isn’t bad. On the other hand, where are you going to get three mana at a time, especially between this deck’s vital third and fifth turns? Yes, it’s nasty to swing for eight or eleven damage late game, but the cost is extraordinary, and you don’t have the option of dialing back the mana expense like most shades offer. I wouldn’t say you should avoid Restless Apparition, but don’t be surprised if you find it underperforming as you struggle to feed it black and white mana.
Sanguine Praetor: 1.5
It costs eight mana, has no way to protect itself, doesn’t win you the game quickly, and owns an ability that could actually mess up your own creatures? No thanks.
Shepard of the Lost: 4.0
What this angel lacks in raw power, it makes up for in versatility. No, it’s not as scary as Bloodgift Demon or Angel of Unnecessarily Long Nomenclature, but the triple threat of first strike, vigilance, and flying make it an extremely efficient option. Against most decks, this Swiss army knife can swing and block almost every turn, threatening unfavorable trades and chumps for your enemies. Even better, she only requires one white mana, so you’ll never have a problem getting her into play.
Soul Feast: 2.5
For five mana, you could summon a ferocious demon or a valiant, battle-tested angel. Or you could just siphon four life out of your opponent. (crickets) This is basically a bad version of Drain Life, unable to target creatures and unscalable for early or late game use. Almost every other play you could make for the cost would have more immediate and long-term impact. Noobs will fawn other this spell, but better players will realize it’s too narrow, too expensive, and too underpowered to be worth using in most circumstances.
Tainted Sigil: 3.0
In general, life gain isn’t particularly powerful, but Tainted Sigil offers the possibility of massive, instant healing. You can easily undo a powerful attack (assuming you survived it) or profit from the pain of your opponents. So in most cases it will function as an after-the-fact Fog, but there are also options for creative (and momentum-swinging) life gains. Keep in mind you can play and use this artifact after combat so your opponent doesn’t know about your plans to siphon away their sadness.
Terramorphic Expanse: 4.0
There isn’t much to say about what is basically a necessary inclusion for your mana base. Grim Procession has very few first-turn plays, so this land won’t screw your tempo up too often. Then again, the deck also has fairly lenient mana requirements, so running all four is hardly necessary, either. Play around with using between two and three copies, and see how it affects your mana curve.
With lax mana requirements and instant speed, there would appear to be no downsides to this nearly universal removal spell. It can handle some of Duels’ most threatening creatures and prevent them from ever coming back, a big bonus vs black and/or red decks. While the power of Unmake is self evident, it does have drawbacks: you can’t reanimate its targets for your own purposes later, and its 3-mana cost makes it inefficient against fast aggro from Goblin Gangland or Peacekeepers. Nonetheless, this is a great all-around “screw you” card.
Vampire Nighthawk: 4.5
This is simply one of the most versatile 3-drops in recent memory, providing insane offense and defense, thanks to evasion and deathtouch. As an early play, Nighthawk can quickly widen the gap between your life total and your enemy’s. Late game, it’s either an insane combat deterrent or a cheap way to sneak damage over ground-based stalls. The only downside to this versatile vampire is its BB casting requirement. You’ll usually have it by turn 3, but it’s far from guaranteed.
Overwhelmingly powerful and laughably cheap, Vindicate is one of the best removal cards ever printed. There is no reason it should be absent from your deck.
Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter: 3.5
Designed specifically for Magic the Gathering: Commander, Vish Kal doesn’t really have the flavor of an organically created card. But hey, who cares? He can turn anything on your side of the board into muscle power at instant speed, or reverse the process to whither away the target of your choice. Seven mana is a bit pricey for this legend, but if you can get him into play, he’ll quickly make up for his mana requirements. The fact that all of his effects can be used in response to removal is a nice bonus.
Voracious Hatchling: 3.5
Dropping a 2/2 lifelink on your fourth turn isn’t particularly exciting, though unleashing a 4/4 or better the following play can be a strong move. With a plethora of instant black/white cards available, Hatchling’s growth can also be used as a powerful combat trick. Of course, you’re not always going to get Voracious Hatchling out when you have a hand full of split cost cards, and this little lion definitely fights for attention with the deck’s other turn 4 plays. It’s a higher risk/higher reward card than, say, Bloodhunter Bat. Weigh it as such.
Zealous Persecution: 4.0
There’s almost no bad time to cast Zealous Persecution, which speaks volumes to its flexibility and value. As a combat trick, it creates a 2/2 divide between your foes’ math and reality. It can also be used as an impromptu (but tiny) Giant Growth to save your monsters or sneak in a little more pain. And with so many 1-toughness creatures and tokens in the game, the option to wipe your enemies’ weenies is particularly appealing. Remember, this card’s value only increases with the number of creatures on the battlefield.